Thursday, December 3, 2009

More about learning to read

One of my readers emailed me AGES ago and asked me to post more on what we are doing (and have done) to teach Rylan how to read…well I have been slow in writing this up, because really I touched on most of it here. When I wrote that post we had pretty much given up on Hooked on Phonics, and although I am still not convinced about the program, we picked it up again and it is going well. Mostly I have figured out how to work through the material, keeping Rylan focused. For him the “review” pages were boring, and therefore frustrating, and to be honest he doesn’t seem to need them, so we just skip them, and it is working much better. For review work we are using the Bob Books instead. These are GREAT beginner reader books. I know some people that have only used these to teach reading…but I am not that brave. I need to “follow” some kind of curriculum, even if loosely, to make sure we are staying on track (I would not make a good unschooler!). The serious downside to Hooked on Phonics is its cost, I think when compared to other similar programs it is overpriced. I should mention we have not yet used the computer learning games that come with it, so I cannot comment on those. We will try them eventually, I have just been reluctant to introduce Rylan to computer games, be they educational or not.

Another program I am looking into is Explode the Code. Rylan loves workbooks, so I may try these out, at best they can replace Hooked on Phonics, at worst they will be a good supplement to that learning.

I tried to think back and pull out the highlights of what we did with Rylan to prepare him for reading, and these are the things I could recall:

- We read to him A LOT. When he was little we literally spent half of our day, pretty much every day, reading. As he got older I also started to point while reading, so he got used to the motion of reading – from left to right. He probably also started to recognize repeated words this way too, as I pointed and said the words.

{Rylan around 20 months}
- I did a lot of letter work with him, all in the form of playing - letter puzzles, letter matching games (I made this dinosaur alphabet matching game for him when his dinosaur obsession was at its peak).
We read alphabet books, he had toys with alphabet learning, we sang the alphabet song, we made alphabet collages and so on…
There are hundreds of ideas online, just do a search and you will find plenty to keep you going for weeks.

- We purchased the Leap Frog Letter Factory and Talking Words Factory DVDs. These are great learning DVDs. They are not going to win any Oscars, but they are effective and enjoyable for the kids. Rylan learnt all of the alphabet letter sounds after watching the Letter Factory DVD twice, and this provided a very solid base for learning to read using a phonics approach. The third DVD in the series, Code Word Caper is also very good.

- I am sure a lot of the pre-writing and early writing activities we did also helped to reinforce letter learning and recognition. For example, sand paper letters, writing letters in the sand at the beach, we also did letter practice in different “fun” mediums, such as whipped cream (you can add food coloring for more fun) or pudding on a tray, with finger paints on paper, building letters out of playdoh, etc. I even remember Ramtin frequently entertaining Rylan in restaurants by building letters out of the long paper tubes of sugar and sweetener on the table (they had these in Israel, where we lived for the first 4 years of Rylan's life).

These are the highlights of what we did with Rylan (and are now starting with Damian). I hope that you are able to find something of use in this rambling of ideas. Would love to hear what all of you have done to teach your little ones to read.


  1. Hey does Rylan want to come teach my 7 year old to read? Just kidding (kind of). My first child was such a motivated reader having 2 slower to read younger ones has been difficult. I'm not a natural teacher of these things either, like yourself.

    You're doing a great job Kami. I see you are reading Organic Body Care recipes. I enjoyed that book from the library a couple years ago. Fun stuff.

  2. If you lived close by I am sure he would love to! ;) He is trying to teach Damian to read, which is pretty cute. Actually every once and I while I am surprised by something Damian knows (since I didn't realize he had learnt it yet), and Rylan will say, "Of course he knows how to do that, I taught him AGES ago!". :)

    Thank you for the words of encouragement!

  3. Hi Kami,
    Thanks for posting! You are doing a good job! And Ryan is too ... :)
    Will try those suggestions on Leah ... but am pretty sure most of the work she will do at school when times will come ... since am working ...
    greetings from Mauritius :)



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